Rail + Sail: Hoek van Holland to Harwich

After our uneventful but productive stay in The Hague, it was finally time to go to England! However, figuring out exactly how to get us over was an issue. 

The UK is really strict when it comes to bringing in pets. First of all, they don’t allow pets to fly in the cabin on any flight in or out of the UK, so that ruled out us flying over, since there’s no way I’d put Lil in the cargo hold. 

Second, the Eurostar through the Chunnel (probably the most popular route between Continental Europe and the UK) wasn’t an option because Eurostar doesn’t allow dogs. Really Eurostar? So annoying! 

I went through several options to get Lil into England, including renting a car, having Jer drop me and Lil in England, then taking the car back to France and come over alone via the Eurostar or a quick flight. At one point, I was so frustrated, I briefly considered smuggling her on a flight. 

Finally, I found the Rail & Sail option from Stena Lines. Basically, you buy one ticket, which includes a train to the port, the boat over, and another train to your final destination. 

So, last Wednesday morning, we took a train to Hoek van Holland, where we boarded the boat to Harwich, England. 

   

I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I found this option. It was relatively cheap (£79 for 2 one way tickets) and since we’re sailing overnight, I got us a cabin. I also upgraded the cabin since I suffer from seasickness and wanted to be as comfortable as possible.  

It had a big porthole, which Jeremy loved of course. It was dark the whole time we were on board, but the window was still fun to have.  

   

Lilly had her own reserved kennel onboard and the tv in our room has a channel where we could watch her. There was also an exercise area and an area where she could use the bathroom. 

Since we had to leave our Airbnb by 3:00pm, we went ahead and went to the port, even though our boat didn’t leave until 10:00pm. Jer went out and found food (there isn’t any in the Stena terminal if you’re sailing) and we waited around for the 6:45pm check-in time. 

We had to go to the Check-in Supervisor and show them Lil’s paperwork, then go through Immigration ourselves. The sweet Dutch immigration agent explained how we could stay longer in Europe if we wished, because we hadn’t yet been in for 90 days. I am well versed in the visa regulations, but we’d never had someone be so kind at immigration before! 

Once we did that, we were allowed to board and go to our cabin.

There are plenty of general areas for people to hang out, and a couple of restaurants/bars. There’s also a shop, several outdoor decks for lounging, and a movie theater. We ate before we boarded and got off before breakfast, so we didn’t enjoy any of the restaurants, but I did have a delish mint and marzipan dessert. 

I was also a bit worried about British immigration and customs. I was so sure we had Lil’s pet passport in line and our info in place as well, but you hear all these horror stories about how British immigration is the worst. Well, we BREEZED through. Stamped our passports, said hi to Lil, and off we went. 

We took 5 different trains to get from Harwich to Leeds, but we’re finally here and have settled in for the holidays. 

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